Editor’s Note: The following essay is by Tory Dietel Hopps, Managing Partner of Dietel & Partners, where she assists grantees with strategies, resource development and capacity building.
As the past weeks have unfolded, I have found myself thinking about the choices I will make regarding what I will not go back to after COVID-19. I believe that we are essentially having a dress rehearsal for what must be our new normal. This pandemic has made it abundantly clear that as a human race, we are truly globally interconnected. This has been the message of climate activists for decades, but the esoteric nature of those conversations clearly were not getting us to move quickly enough. It took a real life and death situation to make us realize we can change our behavior on a dime if we need and want to. We have an opportunity to come out of this pandemic with a new normal where we don’t go back to how we functioned before. This is an opportunity we cannot afford to squander.
We are at a point in time when nearly one third of the global population is sheltering in place. In the midst of this virus, a new consciousness is building by the day. I see several major trend lines that give me hope. The understanding of the importance of equity and justice in our communities is made more real by the day. We are beginning to understand what it means for all of humanity when we have gravely unequal access to technology, information, financial resilience, education, and health care. The pandemic is impacting people across all spectrums of wealth and geographic location – the same is true of the climate crisis – and there is no hiding.
I am inspired daily by what can be accomplished remotely, all the while watching pollution levels decreasing as we ease off our “dependence” on high carbon emitting behaviors. This pandemic has given us a common deadly enemy in real time. The situation has made it clear that we are in this together, and that individual behavior choices do have grave implications for the wellbeing of all. We are being asked to rise to a new level of awareness about what is good for the many, as opposed to our individual needs and personal desires.
Let us not waste this dress rehearsal and see this as a short-term situation to get through. As we move forward, I encourage you to shift from focusing on what you can’t do anymore to what you won’t do any more post pandemic. We must come out of COVID-19 with a new appreciation for our interdependence. If we can honor the lessons from this dress rehearsal, we will not only save humanity and the planet in the long run, but we just might find deeper meaning and joy in celebrating our interconnectedness.